(in the sing. רֵאשַׁית r reshith, beginning; in the plur. בַּכּוּרַים, bikkurim', first-ripe fruits; -Sept. πρωτογεννήματα, ἀπαρχή, ἀφαίρεμα; Vulgate priimtice, priunitiva, frugum initia; comp. תַּרוּמָה, Ierumak', ablation; A. V. "heave-offering," etc.). The -same natural feeling which at first led man out of, gratitude to consecrate to the Giver of all good things the 'first-born of both man and animals, and the prime parts -of sacrifices, because they were regarded as the first instalments of his blessings, and which afterwards led to the legalizing of these offerings, also gave rise to the offering of thee first-fruits and to its becoming law. This was done publicly by the nation at, each of the three great -yearly festivals, sand also by, individuals without limitation of time. No ordinance appears to leave been more distinctly recognised than this, so that the use of the term in the way of illustration carried within a full significance even in N.T. times (Pr 3:9,; Tob. i, 6; 1 Macc. iii, 49; Ro 8:23; Ro 11:16; Jas 1:18; Re 14:4).'
1. Character and Classification of the First-fruits.
(1) On the morrow after the Passover Sabbath, i e. on the 16th of Nisan, a sheaf of new corn was to he brought to the priest, and waved before the altar, in acknowledgment of the gift of fruit-fulness (Le 23:5-6,10,12; Le 2:12). Josephus tells us that the sheaf was of barley, and that, until this ceremony had been performed, no -harvest work was to be begun (Ant. iii, 10, 5). SEE PASSOVER.
(2.) At the expiration of seven weeks from this time, i e. at the feast of. Pentecost, an oblation was to be made of two loaves of leavened bread made from the new flour, which were to be waved in like manner with the Passover sheaf (Ex 34:22; Le 23:15,17; Nu 28:26). SEE PENTECOST.
(3.) The feast of ingathering, i.e. the feast of Tabernacles is- the 7th month, was itself an acknowledgment of the fruits of the harvest (Ex 23:16; Ex 34:22; Le 23:39). SEE TABERNACLES.
Besides these stated occasions, the law also required every individual to consecrate, to the Lord a part of the first-fruit of the land (comp.
Ex 22:29; Ex 23:19; Ex 34:26; Nu 15:20; Nu 21; Nu 18:12-13; De 18:4; De 26:2-11). The first-fruits to be offered are restricted by Jewish tradition to the seven chief productions of Palestine, viz. wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey, mentioned in De 8:8 in praise of the land (comp. Mishna, Biksrim, i, 3; Berachoth, 35, a; Maimonides, Jod Ha-Chezaka, Hichoth Bikmrim, ii, 2), to which perhaps may be added dates (Gesenius, Thes. p. 219; Mishna, Bikursim, i, 3; 1Hasselquist, Travels, p. 417); but the law appears to have contemplated produce of all sorts, and to have been so understood by Nehemiah (De 26:2; Ne 10:35,37). By the Talmudists they are divided into two classes:
1. The actual produce of the soil, the raw material, such as corn, fruits, etc., which are denominated בַּכּוּרַים , πρωτογεννήματα, and,
2. Preparations of the produce, as oil, flour wine, etc., which are called תּרוּמֹת, ἀπαρχαί, (comp. Midras-h Rabba, the Chaldee Paraphrases of Onkelos and Jonathan ben-Uziel, and Rashi on Exodus 22:.29). (Gesenius, Thes. p. 1276,; Augustine, Quaest. in Hebr. 4:32, vol. iii, p. 732; Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. iii, 9, p. 713; Reland, Anstiq. iii, 7; Philo, De Pr. Sacard. i [ii 233, Mang.]; De Sacrific. Abel. et Ca/am, 21 [i, 177, M.]; De Monarchia, ii, 3 [ii, 224, Mang.])
2. Quantity and Time of Offering.— Of the public offerings -of first-fruits, the law defined no place from which the Passover a sheaf should be chosen but the Jewish custom, so far as it is represented by the Mishisa, prescribed that the wave-sheaf or sheaves should be taken from the neighborhood of Jerusalem (Terumoth, 10:2). Deputies from the Sanhedrim went out on the eve of the festival, and tied the growing stalks in bunches. In the evening of the festival day the sheaf was cut with all possible publicity, and carried to the Temple. It was there threshed, and an omer of grain, after being winnowed, was bruised and roasted: after it had been mixed with oil and frankincense laid upon it, the priest waved the offering in all directions. A handful was thrown on the altar-fire, and the rest belonged to the priests, to be eaten by those who were free from ceremonial defilement.' After this the harvest might be carried on. After the destruction of the Temple all this was discontinued, on the principle, as it seems, that the house of God was exclusively the place for oblation (Lamentations 2:14; 10:14; 23:13; Numnb. 18:11; Mishnaf Terum. v, 6; 10:4,5; Shekalim, -viii, 8; Josephus, Ant. iii, 10, 5; Philo Dea Proem. sac. i [ii, 233, Mang.]; Reland, Antiq. iii, 7, 3; 4:3, 8).
The offering made at the feast of Pentecost was a thanksgiving for the conclusion of wheat harvest. It consisted of two loaves (according to Josephus one loaf) of new flour baked with leaven, which were waved by the priest as at the Passover. The size of the loaves is fixed by the Mishna at seven palms long and four wide, with horns of four fingers length. No private offerings of first-fruits were allowed before this public oblation of the ten loaves (Le 23:15,20; Mishrna, Terunu. 10:6; 11:4; Josephus, Ant. iii, 10, 6; Reland, Antiq. .iv, 4, 5).
The quantity of private first-fruits to be consecrated to the Lord has neither been fixed by the law nor by tradition; it was left entirely to the generosity of the people. "Yet" says Maimonides, "it is implied that a sixtieth part is to be consecrated, and he who wishes to denote all the. first-fruits of his field may do so" (Hilchoth Bikurim, ii, 17). The way in which a proprietor fixed which first-fruit he should offer was this, as the Mishna tells us, "when he went into his field and saw a fig ripening, or a bunch of grapes, or a pomegranate here a first-fruit'" (Bikurim, iii). All the first-fruits t-us devoted to the Lord had to be delivered at Jerusalem between the feasts of Pentecost and Dedication (Ex 23:16; Le 23:16-17; Bikurims, i, 36); any offering brought after this time was not received.
3. Manner in which these offerings were taken to Jerusalem.-The first- fruits of the land were to be brought in a basket to the holy place of God's choice, and there presented to the priest, who was to set the basket down before the altar. The offerer was then, in words of which the outline, if not the whole form was prescribed, to recite the story of Jacob's descent into Egypt, and the deliverance therefrom. of his posterity, and to acknowledge the blessings with which God had visited him (De 26:2-11). The law that every one should take up the first-fruits to Jerusalem was soon found impracticable, since even the most pious Israelite found it very- -difficult, in addition to his. appearing at the three great festivals, to have to go to the Temple; with every newly-ripened fruit. 'Nor was it found convenient for every one to go up with his first-fruits separately. Hence the. custom arose, that when the first-fruits were ripe, all the, inhabitants of one district who were ready to deliver, them assembled together in the principal town of that locality where their representative lived, with a basket containing the ripe fruits of the seven several kinds, arranged in the following manner: "The barley was put lowermost, the wheat over it, the olives above that, the dates over them the pomegranates over the dates, and the figs were put uppermost in the basket, leaves being put between every kind to separate it from the other, and clusters of grapes were laid upon the figs to form the outside of the basket" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Biksrim, iii, 7; Tosifta Bikurim, ii). With this basket all the pilgrims (or at least a company of twenty-four persons) staid up all night in the open market-place, because they were afraid to go into houses to sleep lest any inmate of theme should die, and thus cause pollution. Early in the morning the representative of the district, who was the official (מִעֲמָד) and ex officio the leader of the imposing procession, summoned them with the words of the prophet Jeremiah, " Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the house of Jehovah our God" (31:6). The whole company were then ready to start. We cannot do better than give literally the description which the Misnlna and the Talmud give of this imposing procession: An ox [destined for, a peace-offering] went before them with gilded horns and an olive crown upon his head, and a piper who played before them, whilst the air rang, with the song of the people, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" (Ps 122:1). On approaching Jerusalem a messenger was sent forward to announce their arrival, and the first-fruits were tastefully' arranged. Thee officiating priest, the Levites, and the treasurers went out to meet them, the number of officials who went out being in accordance with the largeness of the party that arrived, and conducted them into the holy city, singing, as they entered, "Our feet stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem" (Ps 112:2), whilst all the workmen [who plied their craft] in the streets of Jerusalem stood up before them and welcomed them, saying, " Brethren of such and such a place, peace be with you." The piper continued to play before them till the procession came to the mount of thee Temple. Here every one, even the king ,took his own basket upon his shoulders, and went forward till they all came to the court- of the Temple, singing, "Praise ye thee Lord, praise God in his sanctuary," etc. [through the whole. of Psalm 101]; whereupon the' Levites sang, "I will extol thee, O Lord! -because thou. hast. lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me' (Psalm 30). Then the pigeons which were hung about the baskets were taken for burnt-offerings, and the pilgrims gave to the priests what they brought in their hands. 'With the baskets still upon their shoulders every one repeated, " I profess this' day unto 'the Lord thy God," etc., till he came to the words, '"A wandering Syrian was my father" (i.e. from De 26:3-5), when he took the basket off his shoulders' and laid hold of it by its brim; the priest then put his. hands under it and waved it, whilst the offerer continued to recite from the words "A wandering Syrian," where he had left off, to the end of the section (to De 26:10), then put the basket by the side of the altar, threw himself down on his face, sand afterwards departed (Mishna, Bikurim, iii 2- 6; Jerusalem Bikurim, 65; Maimonides, Hilchoth Bikurim, 4:16, 17). These first-fruits then became the property of the priests who officiated 'during that week. The baskets of the rich were of gold or silver, 'those of the poor of peeled' willow. The baskets of the latter kind were presented to the priests who waved the offerings at the S.W. corner of the altar: the more valuable baskets were returned to the owners (Bik. iii, 6, 8). After passing the night at Jerusalem, the pilgrims returned on the following day to their homes (De 16:7; Terum. ii, 4). It is mentioned that king Agrippa bore his part in this highly picturesque national ceremony by carrying his basket like the rest to the Temple (Bik. iii, 4). Among other by-laws were the following:
1. He who, ate his first. fruits elsewhere than in Jerusalem and without the proper form, was liable to punishment (Macccoti, iii, 3, vol. 4:.284, Surenh.).
2. Women, slavma, deaf and dumb persons, and some others are exempt from the verbal oblation before the priest, which was not generally used after the feast of Tabernacles (Bik. i, 5, 6).
4. Exemption from the, Offering or the connected Service.-Those who simply possessed the trees and not thee land', were exempted from the offering of firstfruits, for they could not say '"the land which thou hast given me" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Bikurim, ii, 13). Those, too, who lived beyond the Jordan could not bring firstfruits in the proper sense of the libation, inasmuch as they could not say the words of the service, from "the land that floweth with milk and honey" (De 26:15; compare Mishna, Bikurim, i,,10). A proselyte, again, though he could bring the offering, was not to recite the service, because he could not use the words occurring therein (De 26:3), ."I am come to the country which the Lord sware -unto our fathers to give us" (Bikurim, i, 4),- Stewards, servants, slaves, women, sexless parson, and hermaphrodites were--also not allowed to recite 6thee service, though they could offer the libation, because they could. not use the words, "I have brought the. first-
fruits of the land which thou, "O Lord, hast given me" (Deuteronomy 26:,10), they having originally had no share in the land (Bikurim, i, 5). '
5. Offering of -the prepared Produce.-In this, too, the quantity to be offered was left to the generosity of the people. -But it was understood', says Maimonides, that "a liberal man will give a fortieth part of his first- fruits; one who is neither liberal nor illiberal will give a fiftieth part, and a covetous man will give 'a sixtieth" (Hilchoth Teruma,,iii, 2). They had to be presented even -from the produce of Jewish fields is foreign countries, and were not allowed to be taken from the portion intended for tithes, nor from the corners left for the poor (Teru-ma, i, 5;' iii, 7), and were not required to be delivered in the Temple, but might be given to thee nearest priest (lb. 4:3; Bikurins, ii, 2). They consisted of wine, wool, bread, oil, date-honey, onions, cucumbers (Teruim. ii, 5, 6; Nu 15:19,21; De 18:4). The measuring-basket was to be thrice estimated during the season (lb. 4:3). He who ate or drank his offering by mistake was bound to add one fifth, and present it to the priest (Le 5:16; Le 22:14), who was forbidden to remit the penalty (Terum. 6:1, 5). The - offerings were to be eaten or used only by those who were clean from ceremonial defilement (Nu 18:11; De 18:4).
6. The First-fruit of the Dough.-Besides the offering of the first-fruits themselves, the Israelites were also required to give to the Lord a cake. made of the first -corn that was threshed, winnowed, and ground (Nu 15:18-21). Tradition restricts this to wheat, barley, casmin, or rye, fox-ear (barley), and oats (Chala, i, 1; Maimonides, Bikurim, 6:1), of which a twenty-fourth part had to be given, but the baker who made it for sale had to give a forty-eighth part (Maimonides, Hichoth Bikerum, v, 2, 3).'' This was the perquisite of the priest, and it is to this that' the apostle refers in Ro 11:16.
7. First-fruits of Fruit-trees.-According to the law, the fruits of every newly-planted tree were not to he eaten or sold, or used. in any way for the first three years, but considered "Uncircumcised" or unclean. In the fourth year, however, the first-fruits were to be consecrated to the Lord, or, as the traditional. explanation is, eaten in Jerusalem, and in the fifth year became available to the owner (Le 19:23-25). The three years, according to Rabbinic law, began with 'the first of Tisri, if the tree was planted before the sixteenth of Ab.' The reason of this is that the fruits of 'those three years were considered imperfect; such imperfect fruit could not, therefore, be offered to God; and as man was not allowed to partake of the produce 'before he consecrated the first instalment of God's blessings to the giver of all good things, the planter, had to wait till the fifth year (comp. Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 19; and Aben Ezra on Le 19:23). The law may also have had the ulterior object of excluding from use crude, immature, and therefore unwholesome fruits. 'Michaelis (iii,: 267-8), indeed, finds a benefit to the 'trees themselves in this regulation: "The economical object of the law is very striking. Every .gardener will teach us not to let fruit-trees bear in their earliest years, but to pluck off the blossoms; and for this reason, that they will 'thus thrive the better, and bear more abundantly afterwards, since, if we may not taste the fruit the first three years, we shall be the more. disposed to pinch off the blossoms, and the son will learn to do this of his father. The very expression 'to regard them as uncircumcised' suggests the propriety of pinching them off; I do not say cutting them off, because it is generally the hand, and not a knife, that is employed in the operation." The trees found growing by the Jews at the conquest were treated as exempt from this rule (Mishna, Osrlah, i, 2). SEE FRUIT.
8. Historical Notices.--The corruption of the nation after the time of Solomon gave rise to neglect in these as well as in other ordinances of the law; and restoration of them was among the reforms brought about by Hezekih (2Ch 31:5,11). Nehemiah also, at the return from captivity, took pains to reorganize the offerings, of first-fruits of both kinds, and to appoint places to receive them (Ne 10:35,37; Ne 12:44). Perversion or alienation of them is reprobated, as care in observing is eulogized by the prophets, and specially mentioned in the sketch of the restoration of the Temple and Temple-service made by Ezekiel (Exodus 20:40; 44:30; 48:14; Mal 3:8).
An offering of first-fruits is mentioned as an acceptable one to the prophet Elisha (2Ki 4:42).
Offerings of first-fruits were sent to Jerusalem by Jews living in foreign countries (Josephus, Ant. 16:6, 7).
Offerings of first-fruits were also customary in heathen systems of worship (Homer, Il. 9:529; Odys. iii, 444; Eurip. Orest. 96; Phan. 1523; Callim. in Cerer. 19; Theocr. 7:31; Stat. Thieb. ii, 742; Aristoph. Ran. 1272; Pausan. i, 43, 4; ix; 19, 4; Long. Pastor. ii, 2 and 22; Diod. Siculus, i, 14; Plutarch, Isid. 66; Pliny, 18:2; 4:6; Calpurn. Ec 4:16; Ovid, Met. 8:273; 10:431;
Fast. ii, 519; Tibul. i, '1, 13; Spanheim, ad Callim. Del. 283; Porphyry, De Abstin.: ii, 56, 32; Epictet.'38; etc.). See Patrick, On Deuteronomy 26; Spencer, De Lea. Hebr. iii, 9, De Primitiarum Origine; Les'lie, On Tithes, in Works, vol. ii; Dougtmei Analect. i, 89; Lakemacher, Ant. Gr p. 402; Munter, Relig. der Karthag. p. 54.
9. Figurative Allusions.-In the New Testament, the "first-fruits" are emblematical of abundance and excellence, and also the earnest or sample of a full harvest at hand. Paul says (Ro 8:23) Christians ''have the first-fruits of the Spirit," i.e. the first gifts of the Spirit' the earnest, the pledge of future and still higher gifts. (See the monographs on this text by Gruner [Hal. 1767], Anon. [Gott. 1767], Muller [Saῥtura Obs. Philol. p. 120], Keil [Lips. 1809].) Christ is called " the first-fruits of them that slept," i.e. the first who rose from the dead (1Co 15:20,23; 1Co 16:15; Ro 11:16; Jas 1:18; Re 14:4).
10. Literature.-Mishna, Bikurim, Teruma, Chala, and Orla; Maimonides, Jod Ha-Chaaka, Hilchoth Bikurim, iii, 121; Lewis, Antiq. of the Hebrew Republic, i, 145, etc. (Lond. 1724); Saalschiitz, Mosaische Recht, i. 343 sq., 416 sq., 433 sq.; Herzfeld, Geschichte d. Volkes Israel, ii, 128 sq.; Jost, Geschichte des Judenthums, i. 172 sq.; Carpzov, Appar. p. 611 sq.; Bauier. Gottesd. Verfissuvng, i, 251 sq.; Gruner, De primitiarum oblatione (Lugd. B. 1739; also in Ugolino, xvii). SEE OFFERING.